Monsieur Jourdain – Bourgeois marionette / flickr

I have written about the French Revolution in a previous Diary. I though I would consider this subject again but from the standpoint of where the bourgeois fit in.

But first some definitions are in order. By bourgeois I am referring to those monied or rich people – mostly in the cities – that class wise were right underneath the nobility (monarchy and their relatives and feudal lords etc.). Wikipedia defines it thus“A word from the French language, used in the fields of political economy, political philosophy, sociology, and history, which originally denoted the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages (AD 500–1500).[1][2] That is of the three social, political and legal classes of the time they were the ones in the middle. Withe the nobility on top and peasants below.

Not middle class as we define it now, which is supposed to be those making a median income.

The urban dictionary defines bourgeois as:

A wealthy, highly privileged class of modern Capitalists. Typically composed of businessmen and others who derive their income from the labor of others. Known to take pride in affluence, spending heavily on luxuries. Usually conservative and/or opposed to government taxation or other policies that are unfavorable to their profit flow.

A wealthy, highly privileged class of modern Capitalists. Typically composed of businessmen and others who derive their income from the labor of others. Known to take pride in affluence, spending heavily on luxuries. Usually conservative and/or opposed to government taxation or other policies that are unfavorable to their profit flow.

There are of course other definitions that are no nearly as elegantly put.

But back to the subject.  From The Socialist Party of Great Britain the following:

Relics of Feudalism

The vast majority of the population – some 22 or 23 million out of a total population of 25 million – were peasants who worked and lived on the land. Very few were serfs actually tied to the land or a master. It has in fact been estimated that between 30 and 40 per cent of the land in pre-1789 France belonged to peasants. But all peasants, whether landowners, tenants or share-croppers, had to pay feudal dues in money and in kind to the lord of the manor as well as tithes, payable in kind, to the church. They were obliged to use the lord’s mill, bread oven and wine press rather than have their own and to allow him to hunt freely on their land. And they were tried and judged in a court presided over by him or his appointee for minor offences and all disputes with him or among themselves concerning land matters.

These were all survivals from feudalism, though it would be inaccurate to describe French society on the eve of the revolution as feudalism. Capitalism had long been developing there and in fact many of the lordships of the manor had been bought by rich non-nobles from the towns as an investment for the income this procured them.

Nor was the nobility any longer really feudal. By this time they had become transformed into an exclusive group which, by virtue of their noble status, enjoyed various tax exemptions and a privileged access to the top posts in the state, a fact that was particularly resented by rich people of non-noble origin – the bourgeoisie – who were to provide the leadership of the French Revolution.

This – the upper echelons of the Third Estate, or non-noble rich people – is the easiest definition that can be given of the bourgeoisie. Some were merchants, others manufacturers, still others professional people, in particular lawyers of various sorts. Below them, in the towns, were the sort of people who in Paris were known as the sansculottes, literally “”those without breeches”, or people who wore trousers rather than the knee-breeches and stockings then worn by the rich and those who aped them. These were the small shopkeepers and providers of various services, the master artisans and their journeymen who one day hoped to become masters themselves. Those who were condemned to a life-time of dependence on selling their labour power for a wage to a manufacturing employer were relatively few and were concentrated in certain industries and towns. One estimate puts their number at as low as 600,000.

Any of this sound familiar ? But back to the subject.

Initially these bourgeoisie/capitalists were pretty OK with this arrangement since they did really well under it.  In fact there were groups who after the revolution, wanted to restore the monarchy.  But the feudal system had too many restraints to expansion and (of course) acquiring additional capital.  Not only that the monarchy of France had gotten itself in to a bit of a pickle finance wise and the country nearly bankrupt.  So the the monarchy was force to call a meeting of a feudal institution that had last met in 1614, the States General .  The subject of course was raising taxes.

Needless to say this did not go over well with the bourgeoisie/capitalists who saw the monarchy as “the nobility being nothing but useless and privileged parasites:”

The nobility …is truly a nation apart, but a bogus one which, lacking organs to keep it alive, clings to a real nation like those vegetable parasites which can live only on the sap of the plants that they impoverish and blight. The Church, the law, the army and the bureaucracy are four classes of public agents necessary everywhere. Why are they accused of aristocratism in France? Because the caste of nobles has usurped all the best posts, and takes them as its hereditary property. Thus it exploits them, not in the spirit of the laws of society, but to its own profit.”

Oh the irony of it all.

July 14 has traditionally been regarded as the date that the French Revolution, as the seizure of power by the bourgeoisie, took place. Another, perhaps better, case can be made out for 6 October of the same year. This was the date when, following a march of women, accompanied by members of the National Guard, from Paris to the royal palace at Versailles to demand bread, the king was forced to recognise the power and legitimacy of the National Assembly by accompanying it back to Paris. The old royal administration then collapsed throughout France and power at regional and local level also passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

See where this is leading ? The ideals of the revolution were already being drawn up to the benefit of the bourgeoisie/capitalists.

POLITICAL: To establish equality between all property-owners by abolishing the privileges enjoyed by a section only of them, the nobility. To establish a constitutional government responsible to an assembly of property-owners elected on a restricted, property franchise.

ECONOMIC: To abolish internal customs duties and establish a national market. To abolish guild and government restrictions on entry into particular trades and businesses and establish freedom of enterprise and laissez-faire. To end feudal dues and tithes levied on agricultural property; rent, interest and profit to be the only legitimate forms of non work income.

Property rights would reign supreme thereby transferring the power from the nobility to the rich.

It was never the intention of those who carried out the French Revolution to abolish the private ownership of land or to break up the big estates of the rich and divide them among the peasants. That would have been a flagrant violation of the “rights of property” which the revolution proclaimed and, under a law passed on 18 March 1793, advocating it was in fact made an offence punishable by death. As far as the land question was concerned, the aim was to abolish the burden of feudal dues on agricultural property. This meant that ground rent was considered to be a perfectly legitimate form of income and the Committee on Feudalism tried to pass off many feudal dues as being a form of ground rent. The peasants, however, would have none of this and, through keeping up the pressure, eventually obtained the abolition of feudal dues in a revolutionary way: by their pure and simple abolition without compensation and the public burning of the title deeds which had granted them. The anarchist Kropotkin in his book on The Great French Revolution regarded this as the revolution’s main achievement.

So property IE wealth – replaces heritage..

The overthrow of Robespierre and the Jacobins marked the end of the radicalisation of the French Revolution and a return to its original aim of establishing a constitutional government by and for property owners. The only difference with 1791 was that this was now to be achieved within the framework of a Republic rather than of a constitutional monarchy. The Republican Constitution of 1795 reintroduced the property qualifications for being an “active” citizen, an “elector” and a deputy.

The French Revolution simply replaced aristocratic privilege with plutocratic privilege.   Which is precisely where we stand today.  This point must be clearly understood. It’s the privilege that the bourgeoisie/capitalists expect and get that sets them apart. as the saying goes “The rich are different from us.”

They are treated and expect to be treated differently by – business, the courts, the government, the police, medical care, the military, banks, educational institutions…..you name it. And as been intended all along – They are the government.

And today they are made up of business owners and their lieutenants, bankers, stock broker, doctors, lawyers, generals, university presidents and even some professors, engineers

And how did these bourgeoisie/capitalists remain in power for so long despite how they treated those underneath them ? Well one reason was the same as the royalty before them. The military who they treated very well. Even into the 20th century here. Between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, military duty was not bad. You get the best medical and dental care, your food and housing and clothes were taken care of, you could buy what ever you wanted at the PX or duty free shops for a fraction of the price here, and the government would ship it home for you free of charge. And when you got out your education was payed for and you could get a home loan from very little interest. If you made the military a carrier, your retirement was one of the best – this also was true of civil service positions as well by the way.

This I think is one of the areas where the bourgeoisie/capitalists are making their biggest mistake. They are systematically eliminating those perks  the military use to receive.  Treating them more and more shabbily and like mere servants.  More and more will question why they show remain loyal to these bourgeoisie/capitalists, especially when someone exposes the abuse – like Bradly Manning – is treated like dirt. When sexual and other abuse is covered up. When the medical facilities ad under staffed and under funded.  When even their armor and weapons are of questionable quality.

Where will their loyalties lie then ? When the peasants finally see that the bourgeoisie/capitalists are no better and even marginally worse than the feudal lords they replaced.

Rest assure my friends, these Bourgeois/Capitalists will not give up without a bloody fight. You cannot vote them out or regulate them because they are the government.   And you cannot for ever circumvent them either.

You will eventually have to fight them and bring them down.

On Edit: If anyone thinks the current situation is new or unique, then you are sadly out of touch. It was the very intention from the get go. From the very beginning in this country – and the world. To put the rich, powerful and privileged in charge of  (and to charge for) everything.